Toni Col­lette’s back

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE - Leigh Paatsch Now show­ing State and Vil­lage ( East­lands only) cinemas

THE WAY, WAY BACK

Stars: Liam James, Sam Rock­well, Steve Carell, Toni Col­lette, An­naSophia Robb

Di­rec­tor: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash

YOU’VE this seen this movie be­fore. This is a com­ing- of- age movie. All that is miss­ing is a nar­ra­tor at the end to tell us “and af­ter that sum­mer, things would never be the same again”.

While this sticky- sweet sen­ti­ment is all The Way, Way Back has to say as a movie, it is con­veyed with such a per­fect blend of re­gret, hope and con­vic­tion that it just can­not sound clichéd.

The lost boy due to find him­self in this poignant com­edy- drama is Dun­can ( Liam James), a teen so painfully awkward he looks like an ex­tra from a Diary of a Wimpy Kid se­quel.

Dun­can has been forced at metaphor­i­cal gun­point to spend the sum­mer hol­i­days with his re­cently di­vorced mum, Pam ( Toni Col­lette), at her new boyfriend’s beach house.

It shouldn’t be so mis­er­able an ex­pe­ri­ence on pa­per. But that boyfriend Trent ( Steve Carell) is a to­tal creep, semi- sub­tly bul­ly­ing Dun­can when Pam is look­ing the other way.

All that keeps Dun­can go­ing is a chance meet­ing with Owen ( Sam Rock­well), a ded­i­cated life­long slacker who has some­how found him­self run­ning the lo­cal wa­ter park.

Did some­one say fa­ther fig­ure? It is not so cut- and- dried as that when it comes to Owen. He is not the kind of guy ca­pa­ble of set­ting an ex­am­ple to any­one.

How­ever, he can sense the over­pow­er­ing angst that is zap­ping Dun­can into sub­mis­sion, and does his best to cut the kid a break.

Owen in­vents a job for Dun­can at the wa­ter park. In the weeks that fol­low, the boy’s fel­low em­ploy­ees be­come the fam­ily he may not have al­ways wanted, but cer­tainly needs right now.

There are no big per­for­mances or heavy mo­ments in The Way, Way Back. Writ­ingdi­rect­ing team Nat Faxon and Jim Rash ( win­ners of an Os­car for their screen­play for The Descen­dants) keep the tone of their work care­fully po­si­tioned be­tween funny- bittersweet and funny- sad.

It is a dif­fi­cult zone for a movie to land in – Lit­tle Miss Sun­shine re­mains the most suc­cess­ful ex­am­ple in re­cent mem­ory – but an ac­com­plished act­ing en­sem­ble makes it look de­cep­tively easy.

Carell works wil­fully against type to serve up the most un­lik­able char­ac­ter he has played. Col­lette is her usual con­sis­tent self and young­ster James an­chors the film’s lead­ing role with quiet au­thor­ity af­ter an un­cer­tain start.

How­ever, the path to com­plete en­joy­ment of The Way, Way Back is com­pre­hen­sively cleared by Rock­well, who cap­tures the film’s win­ning combo of quick- fire wit and slow­burn­ing heart in his ev­ery scene.

MOTHER AND SON: Liam James and Toni Col­lette in The Way, Way Back.

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